The 2011 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC SE isn’t the first superbike with traction control, but it is the first production superbike with the full complement of SBK electronics: traction control, sure, but also wheelie control, launch control and quickshift. Kevin Ash went to Jerez to find out if a mouthful of acronyms can really translate to improved performance and to see if a tiny European motorcycle maker really just changed the motorcycle technology game. — Ed.
While the Japanese are busy picking themselves up off the floor after having the technological stuffing knocked out of them by BMW and Ducati’s electronic chassis management systems, so Aprilia comes along and gets the boot well and truly in with the new RSV4 Factory APRC SE.
Let’s get the Harley-challenging lexicography out of the way first: Factory means it’s, well, trick: Öhlins suspended at both ends with Brembo Monoblocs to combat the horsepower. APRC is Aprilia (you guessed that bit) Performance Ride Control, a package including traction control, wheelie control, launch control and quickshift gear selection. The SE is Special Edition, meaning the paint to celebrate Biaggi’s claim on this year’s World Superbike Championship.
It’s not just the completeness of the package which utterly enthralled me at the bike’s Jerez, Spain, presentation, but how already the traction control has moved up to the next level, before most rivals have even done the homework on their first attempt. Aprilia’s first trick is splitting it into two distinct wheel slip controls. Sudden and potentially catastrophic wheel spin-up is countered by killing the combustion at source, blocking the fuel injection the moment a rapid discrepancy in rear wheel speed is measured.
A whole set of parameters is involved, including wheel acceleration, comparison with front wheel speed, bike lean angle, sensor-measured bike acceleration and what the twistgrip is up to, and these are also used to determine if a more gentle increase in rear wheel speed means the tire’s starting to spin and slide. If this is the case, the injection’s left alone and the ride-by-wire computer takes over to modulate the butterfly angles to maintain just enough power to keep you going but without the spin getting out of control.
And here lies the really clever part: where BMW and Ducati systems cut off the torque at a sharp line drawn in the electron sand, Aprilia has a fuzzy area between the interaction starting and a hard ceiling where no further spin is allowed.
In practice, this means you can open the throttle wide even with your knee pressed firmly onto the apex stones, and as the back end of the bike starts to move to the side, you still have control with the twistgrip over the amount of movement. You simply don’t get this level of control with any rival system, on top of which the Aprilia’s response is creamy smooth.
Given time and this epic electronic safety net, you then learn to fine tune the bike’s trajectory in a turn with the twistgrip alone... you look like a god yet remain a mortal.
There are eight levels of divinity, adjusted on the fly even with the throttle still open via an aptly-called joystick on the left handlebar. There’s so much more too, including the unique-to-Aprilia facility to re-calibrate the system to match it to different tyres.
Then there’s the wheelie control, the launch control, the staggeringly grippy 200/55 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP, the quickshift and... the sound. Oh the sound, of that angry, mighty V-four, like raging chocolate. This is Special alright.
You can read Kevin’s full review at Ash On Bikes.